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Showing posts from 2017

The Orville is making me feel spacey

(As a warning, this post contains spoilers to the Episode 7 "The Majority Rule" of the TV series The Orville.)

I started watching The Orville a week or two ago.  I have seen up to episode 7.  In this episode, there is a planet with a culture that evolved to be very similar to Earth's.  In fact, the dominant species on the planet looks identical to humans (partly, I believe, to save on budget costs for make-up etc).  In this society, we learn that every person is given a badge at age 18 and they must wear this badge at all times.  The badge has two buttons--one upward-pointing green arrow and one downward-pointing red arrow.  When a person does a good thing, another person might press the green button as an "up-vote", to express approval.  When a person does a bad thing, one might press the red button as a "down-vote."  This is clearly inspired by sites such as Reddit that allow thumbs up and down voting on posts. 

At one point, one of the crew members…

Outfall 4

There are events in life that cause me to be introspective.  Perhaps this is not frequent enough.  I do believe that many problems in life can be solved by people looking inward and examining themselves rather than looking outward to find flaws in others.  And so it is for my own benefit that I ought introspect frequently.

I often find that my feelings are profoundly influenced by how others esteem me--how they treat me, as well as how they perceive me.  I am hurt when I learn a person does not like me, or when a person is unkind to me.  I feel a strong feeling compelling me to engage with people in such a way as to elicit high esteem of myself from them.  This is true even of people that I only recently met--people with whom I have not established a long relationship or deep bond.  In many cases, I have developed a thick skin to prevent my feelings from being hurt due to unkindness from others.  Sometimes this is easier than others.

The number of times I have fought with people onlin…

Factual Alternatives

It seems apparent to me that very little in life will ever be considered ideal or perfect--especially in matters of public policy.  This is why I believe the practical approach to discussing policy is not strictly talking about the pros or cons of one particular policy, but rather considering all available alternatives.

I give as my first example the question of healthcare.  Just yesterday a conservative voiced his concern that if we had government healthcare (as nearly every other developed country has), we would be subjected to "death panels" and he cited the case of Charlie Gard to support his claim.  Now, discussing the finer points of that case could be a discussion on its own, so I set that aside.  Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the prospect of changing to single payer invariably comes with death panels.  That is to say, the courts of the land will be given authority to terminate care for a patient due to whatever reason it seems to find reasonable to do…

The Great Dragon, Smug

A friend shared this article, and I shared it myself on Facebook.  I wanted to start by mentioning the points that I believe the author got right.  It is true that liberals are often smug.  It is true that liberals wish to impose their views on other people in many ways.  When NYC banned soft drinks larger than 16 ounces, I'm sure they felt like they were doing what was best for its citizens.  Sugary drinks can cause health issues.  They can make you fat, they can inflame diabetes, and they can cause other problems as well.  This is an example of what I would call unnecessary meddling in personal lives.  I don't think it's the role of the government to do things like that.  I think it would be good to educate the public on the harms of consuming large quantities of sugars, but I do not believe it should be made illegal in this way.

However, this meddling in personal lives (the "hamburger problem" as the author calls it) is not unique to liberals.  Conservatives a…

The Parable of the Roller Coaster

A couple weeks ago I went to Six Flags with a friend.  It was not a busy day.  Most of the lines were very short.  We literally walked right onto one ride, without having to wait at all.  The last ride we went on, we waited for roughly an hour.  While I was in line, I thought of something.  A parable.

Waiting for an hour is a sacrifice.  Most people view waiting as a negative thing--and I agree with that.  I don't like waiting.  The times I wait are when I am forced to (such as in a traffic jam) or when I know there will be something valuable that comes from the waiting (such as a roller coaster).  I made a sacrifice in order to obtain something I wanted--namely a fun time riding the coaster.

While I was waiting in line, I drew a parallel with religion.  Many religious people will teach that rewards in the next life are worth the sacrifices they require in this life.  That is, they are telling us that (religiously speaking) it is worth waiting in line for an hour in order to enjo…

Grief is good

It's ok to not be ok.  It's okay to be sad, upset, angry, depressed, and other emotions that are often considered negative.  It is not possible for us to be happy and smiling all the time.  That isn't how we are meant to be as biological beings.  Sad things happen to us.

A very sad thing happened to me a week ago.  A person that I loved passed away.  Death is not new to me.  I have lost many loved ones.  Three of my four grandparents have passed away, the first one when I was a young teenager.  It hurts.  It doesn't get easier and it's not necessarily supposed to.  We may develop more healthy coping mechanisms as we get older but that doesn't mean the pain isn't there.  It hurts.

Ed made me smile, and he's no longer here to do that.  We shared so many pleasant memories together and there won't be any more of those.  I'll have to make more memories with other people or relive the memories that I have from the time he and I spent together.

Some of…


To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture.  -Thomas Paine So one thing that has really frustrated me about Trump supporters and about Trump himself is the level to which they are disconnected from reality.  I mean at first I was actually surprised--stunned--that so many people could believe something so different from what is actually the case.  But as time has gone on and I've thought about it more, I should actually be surprised if they were grounded in reality.  And this is because their most fundamental beliefs are not grounded in reality at all.

Consider the statistics on how religious people voted.  A majority of Christians voted for Trump.  An overwhelming majority of Mormons did.  Clinton did get a majority of Jews and other religious people.  I believe the best explanation for this is tho…

Revenge of the jock

Attending a math conference, surrounded by thousands of mathematicians, during last week has brought this to the forefront of my mind. Surprisingly, a large number of mathematicians are slender or fit. Surely many of them exercise regularly. Perhaps some have a high metabolism despite being elderly. And I assume many of them are just very health-conscious in their dietary habits. At any rate, there are very few I have seen at this conference who appear to be athletic. Most are either skinny or fat. There are only a few who have obviously defined, noticeable muscles.

Whatever the reason for this phenomenon, I wish to give my own personal perspective on the matter. I grew up believing that “jock” and “nerd” were anti-types. That someone could be one or the other but not both. Society teaches this in many ways. There are countless depictions in our media (movies, tv shows, etc) of nerds being skinny, having glasses, and not having time for physical activity (or possibly that…


Like many of my posts, this one has been floating around in my mind for a couple months.  I know many people avoid the gym because it is intimidating, so I'd like to share my thoughts about this phenomenon.  First of all, obviously going to the gym isn't the only intimidating thing in life, and many of these thoughts are things that easily translate to any other of these intimidating things.

So I'd like to share some of my personal experiences with gyms.  The first time I recall ever going into a weight room to use it was my first year of college.  I had PE classes all through K-12, but I don't remember ever using the weight room--just group sports, etc.  I recall being intimidated by all the machines.  Some of them I could figure out on my own, but many of them I just stared at and couldn't possibly conceive how it was meant to be used.  Fortunately, I occasionally went with friends and one friend was very familiar with all the equipment so he could help.  So, kn…